From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing - and often influencing - the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.
Thomas Hockenberry, former 21st-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry's duty to observe and report on the Trojan War's progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself.
With the help of 40th-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants...and ultimately destroy Aphrodite's sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena. On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment.
Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last 20. That rarest of post-postmodern men - an "adventurer" - he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable "final fax." Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate - and, perhaps, terminate - the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars.
©2003 Dan Simmons (P)2014 Audible Inc.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
(3.5 stars) I think there was some Star Trek episode in which characters from a fictional work were brought to life by advanced technology and wrought havoc, until Kirk remembered his classics. This novel is that idea on steroids. We get Shakespeare and Proust-quoting robots from the moons of Jupiter, and classical Greek gods who dwell on Mount Olympus -- on Mars -- and use nanotechnology and quantum doodads to intervene in a parallel universe in which the events of The Iliad are taking place, almost exactly as Homer described them.
Dan Simmons set a high bar with Hyperion, which remains one of my favorite science fiction novels (I’m less enthusiastic about its followups). That book proved that space opera can play games with literary intertextuality, and it also had a great universe and some page-turning mysteries. So I was half skeptical, half optimistic about this one.
I’ll give Simmons credit for having the skill to suck me into the story, in spite of my skepticism. The Iliad storyline, in which a 20th century Homeric scholar named Thomas Hockenberry was somehow resurrected by the gods to be an expert observer of the Trojan War (which only Zeus can foresee the outcome of), seemed well-researched and was a lot of fun, though it was helpful that I had recently read a translation of the Iliad. Hockenberry, ever the jaded academic, manages to manipulate the poem’s characters, who stay in character, towards breaking free of their prescribed fates.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, where about two thousand years have gone by since our time, a small population of “old-style” humans lives lives of leisure and ignorance, cared for by machines that post-humans left behind when they departed centuries ago. A group of these humans has begun to suspect that things have not always been this way, and embark on a hunt for answers on a planet that’s changed quite a bit since our time. With a little help from their new friend, Odysseus. The third thread concerns two moravecs from Jupiter, where their kind has evolved over the centuries, who crash-land on a now-terraformed Mars, and soon discover that knowledge of Shakespeare (not to mention Proust’s thoughts on the strangeness of time) might apply to their situation.
In terms of writing, I thought this one was only sometimes up the dark brilliance of Hyperion, but still a good ride. Simmons is at his best when he’s immersing the reader in a scene (as he does fantastically in some of the Troy sequences) or doing clever mashups (as with a creepy space station monster who speaks in Shakespeare mode), and less so when he’s going through the workmanlike process of having characters run or teleport around the map in order to connect pieces of his far-flung plot and themes (look for the annoying SF trope of invoking “quantum” to explain the essentially magical). How Simmons will pull everything together in the second, final book remains for me to see, but I find the ideas he seems to be going for interesting. Might old myths and legends, which have stayed in our collective memory so far, still be haunting us in whatever post-human, post-post-modern future is to come? "We're not fighters", says one character. "Oh, yes you are," replies another, "it's still in your genes". I also liked the little in-jokes, such as a scene in which Hockenberry, annoyed with how his PC fellow academics kept reading gay tendencies into certain Iliad characters, discovers that the truth is a little... ambiguous.
Audiobook narrator Kevin Pariseau is competent enough, but I think he does better at humor than drama. His wry Hockenberry is amusing, but his gods and heroes are a little lacking in gravitas.
Avid reader all of my life! Favorite author: Stephen King. Favorite book: Hyperion.
The book mixes futuristic sci-fi with the events that occurred in Homer's poem The Iliad. It does so in such an excellent manner as to make me want to read/study the Iliad again! This audio book also seems to take pieces from Dan Simmon's other excellent works in the Hyperion Cantos. I found myself thinking back to Hyperion many times while listening to this book.
The narrator is solid as well imparting the perfect cynical tone to the main character.
This avatar actually looks like me.
Hockenberry is my favorite character, the average guy, in over his head. He just wants to survive and at the same time, screw the gods.
Not my favorite narrator, Simon Vance would have been a better choice.
Homer and the rest would probably hate this story, but I liked it. Simmons is not afraid to take on Dickens, Homer, Hemingway, or anybody else. He makes the average writer look bad, sometimes I think he is just showing off. Time will tell if people are still reading his books two hundred years from now. Classic Simmons, playing havoc with the classics.
A fantastic sci-fi epic in the tradition of Simmons's Hyperion Cantos. In Ilium, as in the Hyperion books, Simmons really shows off his knowledge of classical literature. He obviously knows the Iliad and the Odyssey inside and out, but the author (through his characters) also fill this book with literary and historical references to Shakespeare, Proust, and a dozen other sources. It's ingenious and it made me to resolve to finally get around to reading the Iliad myself once I've finished this series.
Set in the 40th century, Ilium is a retelling of the Ilium. Kind of. We begin with "scholic" Thomas Hockenberry, who was an early 21st century classics professor revived by the Olympian gods in the 40th century to monitor the ongoing Trojan War — which is taking place on Mars.
"Wait, what?" you are thinking. The "gods" are creatures of super-science, using unimaginable powers of quantum manipulation and nanotechnology to take on the roles and attributes of the classical Greek deities. And not just the big names either — while all the old familiar gods like Zeus and Athena and Aphrodite of course figure heavily into the plot, Simmons, through his educated protagonist Hockenberry, encounters scores of minor named gods and heroes as well.
Just why the gods are reenacting the Iliad on a terraformed Mars is not made clear by the end of this volume, but the heroes — Achilles, Hector, Paris, Odysseus, etc — are also as epic as the gods, thanks to both nanotech enhancements and literal interbreeding between gods and mortals, just like in the myths.
Hockenberry and his fellow scholics are basically embedded journalists for the gods, but although they all know how the Iliad ends, they have been forbidden by Zeus to tell any of the other gods. The gods know that the scholics know how Homer said the story is supposed to end, but they've been forbidden to ask the scholics. So they continue playing their games with mortal lives.
And then Hockenberry is recruited by one of the gods for a clandestine mission to kill another god. And with the "magic artifacts" he's been given, he's able to change a key event. And suddenly we're not in the Iliad anymore. And Hockenberry, who's now a dead man as soon as the gods catch up to him, decides to change the story completely.
This would be a pretty awesome story all by itself, but in fact Hockenberry is only one of three main protagonists. There are two other subplots which eventually merge into the Iliad on Mars. A pair of "Moravecs" — a race of sentient robots built by post-humans before they disappeared, now living out among the moons of Jupiter — is on a mission of their own. Not having paid much attention to the inner system for generations, they discovered a lot of dangerous quantum manipulation and advanced terraforming on Mars. When they go to investigate, their ship is shot down... in orbit, by a bearded man in a chariot throwing a lightning bolt at them.
Mahnmut and Orphu, the only two survivors, try to make it across Mars, aided by mysterious "Little Green Men" who seem to be creations of neither early humans nor the gods. The two robots, whose dialog is kind of reminiscent of R2D2 and C3PO, if C3PO were a Shakespeare scholar and R2D2 were fond of Proust, add a bit of comedy relief to the story, but eventually have a role to play in the climactic confrontation between gods and mortals.
Finally, there are the last surviving humans on Earth, a tiny population of laborless dilettantes with little to do but go to parties and play musical beds. Their world has been created by the long-gone post-humans, who created teleportation networks around the world, set up a system in which all remaining humans are carefully population-controlled and do not have to work or want for anything. They are granted perfect health until their "fifth twenty," when they report for exterminationascension to the outer rings, Logan's Run-style. But as Eloi-like as the remaining human race may be (they are actually called "Eloi" by one of the old-time humans they later meet), the spark of curiosity hasn't completely died in all of them. A few set off on an unplanned adventure, and discover truths about their world... and that there are Morlocks.
Ilium is so rich in world-building and has such a tangled plot that there were occasional bits that lost me — I am still not sure of the role of Caliban, the Little Green Men are just strange, and we don't yet have an answer to the question of why super-advanced godlike beings have resurrected the entire cast of the Iliad on a terraformed Mars. But hopefully those questions will be answered in the second book, which I will be reading soon.
Reading Fantasy and SCI-FI on audible.
This is an interesting story that takes quite a bit of time to figure out. I hate the ending as it really just says there will be a sequal - but up to that point it is fairly interesting. It will make you read up on the Illiad as a large part of the book involves a re-enactment of the battle of troy on Mars. Kind of interesting.
The performance is very good. The read does a great job of portraying the characters and there is very good character development. There are a few things left to the next book - I felt somewhat cheated there especially since the sequel did not get very good reviews. But worth the read/listen.
Another Simmons novel that doesn't let you down. The story starts off out of no where. And you feel lost for a few chapters. And by the end you're so captivated you're dying to find out what happens next. Great storyline, especially if you like Greek mythology.
It takes a writer with a set of cojones to weave Homer, Shakespeare and Proust into a plot line set in the far future. At times Ilium can feel a bit clunky and forced. But the awkwardness is soon replaced by a testosterone filled Achilles changing destiny. Fun stuff.
Lover of sci-fi and the occasional horror story. Philosophical inclinations. English is my second language.
As most who read Simmons' Hyperion series, I was awed. It was one of my first encounters with sci-fi and it hooked me.
Since then I have read most of Simmons' oeuvre, including his horror novels. In my opinion, none equals Hyperion. Ilium comes close however.
Ilium is a sprawling novel centred on the future battle of Troy. Mysterious Gods from Greek antiquity stage Homer's Iliad on Mars. Human tragedy becomes godly entertainment as Zeus and his entourage look on from Olympus Mons. As we follow a technologically reincarnated 20th century American scholar of Homer, the mysterious situation on Mars is slowly unmasked and we begin to learn the true background to the story.
Meanwhile, we also learn of what has become of life on earth as four friends discover that their planet was not always inhabited by dinosaurs and that humanity's every need was not always tended to by mechanical guardians. Do they dare break free from their artificially pampared lives to uncover the truth? And will the little robots from Jupiter, who always debate Shakespeare, find out what is really behind the Gods of Mars?
Simmons loves classical literature and he often threads it throughout his novels. I suspect I didn't get all of the literary allusions in Ilium. Luckily, being well-versed in classics is not a prerequisite for enjoying the novel - although some knowlege helps.
Simmons' greatest flaw is the length of his books. He seems to love writing and he does a lot of it. Were it not for literary quality, I believe few would list him as a favorite. But Simmons possesses great skill and so we almost always forgive him his lengthy prose. Almost. Ilium (and Olympus) are really thick books. I love them dearly, but I can't believe the length is necessary. It would be interesting to read versions abbreviated by the author - I suspect they would be even better.
All in all - if you love philosophy and classical literature, this is a must-read even if you are not into sci-fi. Simmons qualities as a writer give his books a wider appeal than the sci-fi fans. This is great literature, period.
I focus mainly on History, Endurance Sports and Science/Speculative Fiction books.
The Trojan War
Ha! I would say the two proto-humans discussing Shakespeare.
He really did a fantastic job. I have heard of him before but he was really excellent. Handled different voices well and provided drama when appropriate. Well done.
If you like Simmons you will enjoy this. Simmons is an atypical writer. Tremendous breadth of knowledge about classical literature, history and inter contextual linking between those items and his own unique story line. This is a long complex story, and this first book is really a set up for a larger payoff. If you enjoyed Hyperion I think you will enjoy this story, but don't plan on any quick resolution. Most of this book is a series of story that barely come together in this first book. Its a solid story.
I like Simmons because you spend time with his stories and become immersed in his stories back story. I researched Proust, The Trojan Wars and Shakespeare in an effort to understand this story line better. I find this both unusual in Sci Fi and the reason I find him so interesting as an author.
Nothing is better than the well-written sci-fi story. I'm even trying to write one too. But these days, I have expanded my taste --a bit.
Yes. This story was great!! It takes the events of the Iliad (one of the greatest human epics ever told) and throws in a sentient race of semi-organic machines, some Eloi humans (as in The Time Machine) and an mere mortal slob tasked as the observer of the "gods". It is incredibly imaginative and really develops the concept of post-humanism. It also has( what seems to me) to be very solid science behind the fiction without being too techno the way Clark and Asimov are. It is funny and uncensored and not at all predictable, which is a key component of a really well told story.
My favorite character was Mahnmut the moravec. He has an innocence about him and is surrounded by characters and situations that would test one's moral compass. He's a basic nice guy, the kind of person I at least won't to be. Also he has all this cool tech.
No, I have not listened to other stories by this narrator, but he is up to the task. He gives a performance that I would expect, not overly spectacular, but not lacking either. The minor greek warriors didn't seem that distinct but they were minor characters with usual;y one scene, so that's not really a negative. Overall, it was a good reading.
No, but only because it was just so overwhelming. I wanted to listen and then process. It intruded a lot of really interesting concepts that could be stories in their own right.
The only negative is that is is harder to follow than most stories for two reasons. First, the writer explains very little. He leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader, which is fine to a point, buy some things he just does not tell you until two-thirds into the book. The second reason is that the story follows three sets of character and one of them is in first person POV while the others are in third. Is that a thing now and I'm just behind the times? Anyway, its weird, but it is in no way a deal breaker. I love this story and plan read the second part of this two-part cycle.
The book is brilliant. Unfortunately the narration is just dull, uninterested and soporific. What a disappointment!
"Brilliant! Amazing for Iliad fans too!"
Great story and a great performance. Simmons weaves such varied material together in a way that simply works! Ancient Greece and future Sci fi! I don't know how it works but Simmons manages it! Highly recommended!
"Amazing book and amazingly read!"
Yes, it's a great story by Dan Simmons and there would always be more to understand with each listen.
Hockenburry was my favourite character, I enjoyed the way he developed throughout the books.
Yes. Always good!
All of it.
"Very good albeit challenging read"
Essential reading if you like the author's Hyperion/Endymion books. More of a challenge as you are pitched straight in to the futuristic terminology, without the introduction that Hyperion 1 gives to the earlier series. I had to check the wikipedia page a few times! Some of the pronunciation isn't what I expected, eg Jupiter's moon Io is pronounced 'ee-oh' by the reader, where I'd have expected 'eye-oh' (aɪ.oʊ).
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